Why We Do This Work - Midwives For Haiti

Why We Do This Work

Imagine that you are a Haitian woman. Your name is Carmina, and you live in Haiti about one hour from the border of the Dominican Republic and two hours from the nearest hospital in Hinche. You are pregnant and you have been in labor all day and are exhausted. You are in the dark in your small, tin-roofed house made of sun-baked bricks. It is very, very hot and there is no cold water to drink. You are having the worst pain you have ever had in your life and there seems to be no way to end it. Something is wrong because you are bleeding more than you remember bleeding when you had your first baby. You are in so much pain and getting very weak. Something is wrong because you cannot scream anymore and you begin to slip in and out of consciousness.

Your sister is sitting with you and telling you to try harder to stay awake. Your mother is begging your husband to do something, but he does not know what to do. They know you need help, but help is two hours away and your family does not have a vehicle. The priest in the village has a truck but no money to buy gas for it. As you start to bleed even more badly, in desperation your family borrows enough money from neighbors to go to buy the gas, take it to the priest and once he filters it and puts it in his truck, he helps your family carry you into the back of the truck which will carry you to the hospital in Hinche. You continue to bleed badly. You are sometimes aware that the pain is continuing, that your baby is no longer moving and that you are soaking all the sheets and rags that your sister and mother brought along.

Two hours later, when you reach the hospital you need blood and an emergency C-section, but there is no blood to give you and the nurses ask your family to pay for the IV tubing so they can give you fluid. They also ask for more money to pay for the pain medication you will need for the surgery. You have a cousin in town named Anise, and your family runs to find her. She brings money and water but when she arrives she finds that it is too late. You have lost too much blood. You die with the dead baby still inside you.

The next morning, the cousin Anise goes to her midwifery class down the road from the hospital where she is learning about ways to save the lives of women in childbirth. She is crying and cannot stop. She tells the American midwife and the American doctor about her cousin Carmina – how she died at the hospital at 5 a.m. this morning. The midwife and the doctor cry, too, and the whole class is very quiet.

The student midwives tell the Americans it happens every week at this hospital. Women arrive in full seizures from severely high blood pressure, with sepsis from infections they got from dirty hands and instruments used during their birth. They arrive in comas from labors that have gone on too many days. They arrive losing too much blood too fast from the anemia caused by worms, malaria, poor nutrition or all three. The class talks about what could have been done to save Carmina’s life. They also wonder what will happen to Carmina’s two-year-old child, who has now been left without a mother.

The death of Carmina happened in 2008 but it’s still happening right now. Another 800 women will die somewhere in the world today –that’s one mother every two minutes- from totally preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Many of them will leave behind children whose chances of dying are ten times higher when they are left motherless.

In Haiti, a woman’s lifetime chances of dying in childbirth are as high as 1 in 83. In the U.S., the chances are 1 in 4,800. This disparity isn’t acceptable to us.

Since 2006, we’ve trained 155 Haitian nurses to become Skilled Birth Attendants and provide life-saving care to mothers like Carmina. Each year, our graduates provide tens of thousands of prenatal exams and safe births throughout the country. Providing education and training is making a difference for our graduates and the mothers and infants they care for.

Our Mobile Prenatal Clinic is also having a measureable impact. In Haiti, where most of the country is rural and underdeveloped, many pregnant women have no access to medical facilities or the care of a skilled provider. If Carmina had had access to prenatal care, there is a very good chance that she would have survived. So, we decided that if mothers like Carmina didn’t have access to care, we would bring it to them.

Each month, our Mobile Prenatal Clinic travels to 24 remote villages in the Central Plateau. We typically see up to 1500 women each month and many pregnant mothers walk up to two hours each way in high temperatures to receive comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care. They come to Mobile Clinic because they want to survive childbirth. And they want their baby to survive, too.

The Mobile Prenatal Clinic is entirely funded by individuals like you. Your donations ensure more mothers like Carmina don’t have to die. You can support our mobile clinic by making a tax-deductible donation now.

You can also help us by spreading the word about how we are fighting maternal and infant mortality in Haiti. Please tell your family, friends, social media communities, and anyone whom you think will listen.

If you’d like more information, would like to partner, or are interested in becoming a corporate sponsor of our work, please email marketing@midwivesforhaiti.org.